Guide to RTI: Ask the right queries to obtain information you seek

The RTI is one of the most powerful tools and an essential democratic right of every Indian citizen. A handy guide takes you through the steps to file an effective guide

The Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI) that came into force eight years back has proven to be one of the most powerful tools put to use by every Indian—big and small—to obtain information that was all along denied under the garb of ‘official secrecy’. Thanks to the benefits of the RTI, many of India’s biggest scams and scandals are now exposed.

Deepak Sandhu, chief information commissioner (CIC), very rightly says, “RTI is a game changer. It has democratised information to the citizen’s advantage. The citizen is central in the Act. Other countries offer freedom of information while our legislation recognises it as a right.”
 

Here are a few tips to make effective use, to extract the most appropriate response, and minimise the possibilities of rejection on frivolous grounds.

  1. The RTI Act entitles you to obtain response by way of information within 30 days.
     
  2. Remember, it is the basic information that is being sought and not hows, whys and who’s of any matters.
     
  3. Information under the Act can be sought from central, state and local authorities, parliament and state legislatures, judiciary, police, security forces, public sector undertakings and bodies substantially financed by the state.
     
  4. You need to consider deeply about the precise nature of the information required to enable you to frame your query in English, Hindi or the state language very concisely in a few words.  Do not go on rambling explanations or suggestions or attempt vague roving enquiries.
     
  5. The RTI should never be used to settle scores or to target or harass any one individual or department. For instance: “Maine uske oopar RTI mara; ab ayega maza!”
     
  6. It is important that the information elicited should not be merely filed away. It ought to be taken forward effectively to get matters moving in the right direction and/or to set right systemic flaws, if any.  Possibly, if necessary, it can be put to use in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) at a High Court.
     
  7. You can seek information pertaining to records, documents, memos, mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, images or any computer generated matter, orders, log books, contracts, reports, papers, samples models or electronic data.
     
  8. Under Section 4 of the RTI Act, you are empowered to visit, by prior appointment, the office concerned to inspect records and official documents and obtain xerox copies on payment of copying charges at actuals.  To enable you to do so, you are to be provided suitable table and sitting space within the office premises to carry out your verification/inspection exercise to flag the documents that need to be copied. For instance, authorities like the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) prefer Section 4 approach for the simple reason that it is you, who will flag only the documents/information required and that relieves them of the burden of hunting through a mass of bureaucratic red taped files and also the task of drafting a reply that has to be approved and finally signed, sealed to be sent to you within the mandated 30 days of receipt of your application.
     
  9. The Act also provides for inspection of government works and to take samples from sites.
     
  10. Section 6 of the Act has laid down a simple form that that can be copied on plain paper and signed by the applicant who has to be an individual and not any organisation.

  1. The application fee of Rs10 can be paid either in cash across the counter. Court fees stamp can also be affixed in the case of BMC and Maharashtra State or Demand Draft or Pay order in favour of the Accounts officer of the concerned department.
  2. However, a more convenient mode would be to obtain a Postal Order for Rs10, attach it to the application in duplicate and hand it in the RTI counter in any Head Post Office (PO). The PO counter clerk will retain the two copies and return duly stamped the third copy with the counterfoil of the postal order. The PO then despatches the application to the department concerned with a copy to you.

(Nagesh Kini is a Mumbai-based chartered accountant turned activist.)

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    COMMENTS

    hasanraja1934

    2 months ago

    Mujhe bataiye ki Bank se kis type ka information mang sakta hu clear karke ? Mujhe bataiye ga koi ?

    vishu

    1 year ago

    If RTI activist pays Rs. 100/- instead of Rs. 10/- for sought information and concerned documents, will the application consider or not, if yes please send me RTI section of the same. So that I clarify to concerned department who made the objection for sending the information only said reason.

    Monali Swain

    3 years ago

    My father retired from army on 29 feb 2016 ,he was granted pension and other benefits as per 6th cpc consequent to implemention of 7th cpc ,effective date 1st jan 2016 his pay has been revised. But neither revised pension nor consequential benefits have been paid so far. RTI application to provide information regarding revised pension,gratuity,commutation leave encashment and reason for delay has not been entertained by PIO . Please confirm whether the above information can be obtained through RTI .

    REPLY

    Shrikrishna Kachave

    In Reply to Monali Swain 3 years ago

    Ma'am, as I said above, the information mentioned by you can be obtained using RTI. However if in case, the PIO has either refused/rejected you the information, please make a First Appeal to FAA of same department. Secondly, the PIO can't provide you any reason for the delay since this doesn't form a part of records.
    Thus, I would be happy to help you draft the RTI application/appeal further. In this case, you could e-mail me the details of this matter directly on '[email protected]'. Thanks!

    Shrikrishna Kachave

    In Reply to Monali Swain 3 years ago

    This is really sad to know sir. Yes, the above information mentioned by you can be obtained using RTI. To help you with its procedure and any other assistance in case you need, I would pls request you to mail your above query in details to '[email protected]'.
    Our details can be found here: http://foundation.moneylife.in/

    Rakesh Kumar Bose

    3 years ago

    Who is the appellate authority to advice regarding land dispute under RTI,Act,2005?

    parshant charaya

    3 years ago

    Can I ask from the department about the posting creation for new joining and about the marks obtained by the candidate in departmental exams

    n.l.narasimham

    5 years ago

    one person to purchase our house he gave 5,00,000 and take receipt for that and he has not give xerox copy of that receipt since 9 months he is not purchasing our house and saying i have given 50,00,000 and i have agreement but he does not have agreement under rti can we ask xerox of that receipt
    plese suggest us

    g s raveendranath

    7 years ago

    sir,
    physical verification of departmental material comes under rti act 2005

    ygmkrishna

    7 years ago

    Can a member of Employees Coop. Credit & Thrift Society want the details of membership particulars of a state under RTI ACT. Recently Supreme court gave a verdict that Coop. societies will not come under RTI Act. Kindly send your views to [email protected]. Thanking you.

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